Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

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Choosing the Best Furniture For Your Exhibit

This is a guest article by Ryan Farquharson – Co-founder & CEO of Expocart.

Planning an exhibition involves analyzing many factors at play which is challenging for exhibitors. Choosing the best furniture for your exhibition becomes stressful when you have to consider the theme of your stand, how to express your brand and your staff’s needs. Fortunately, at Expocart, we assist exhibitors in choosing the best furniture for their exhibitions without any struggle. Based on our many years of experience in the exhibition sector and outdoor exhibits, we have developed modern furniture designs for outdoor displays that increase your brand exposure and market your stand. Below are the top tips that you should consider when choosing furniture for your outdoor displays.

Consider Sensible Seating

Whether you will be using exhibit booths, pop out banners, or outdoor banner stands, exhibition is a hard work for your staff and team members coordinating the exhibition. Ensuring that your outdoor display includes ample seating for your team becomes essential. Seating spaces in outdoor displays can be used for tea breaks or turn-taking during the day. We recommend selecting couches that strike a balance between beauty and comfort. Do not prioritize function over form. Select couches that can be reconfigured after tea break for potential customers to lounge on while chatting to your team.

Stand Out of the Crowd Impeccably

The furniture you choose should reflect your brand perfectly from competitor displays. Select the best furniture that creates a strong impression to attract potential buyers in your stand. The furniture should be modern, trendy, and unique. All other accessories should be inviting, practical, easily accessible, and in pristine condition. The quality of the furniture you choose goes a long way to tell your potential customers and passers-by about your brand. Having furniture that will make your display look like it was set up on a shoestring budget is an early fail for your exhibition. In this case, there are cost-effective furniture that reflect your brands and can be customized to command attention even from your competitors. Budget for a few high-cost items to compliment your look and add glamour to your display stand.

Let Your Display Communicate a Theme

You should have a different theme for every exhibition event you attend. Displaying a specific theme makes your stand memorable even after the show is over. Whether your theme is classic, antique, natural, retro, or futuristic theme, choose furniture that compliments it perfectly. Select the furniture with the perfect color, finishing, branding, and decor that cohesively connects your theme to the potential buyers. Consider a uniform theme throughout the display stand to command attention.

Choose Furniture with Storage Spaces

Expocart understands that many exhibition venues lack practical storage spaces or units. Through our experience, it makes sense to seek furniture that has reasonable storage spaces. That not only facilitates smooth exhibitions activities, but also provide an ingeniously designed workable storage solutions. Items like brochures, stationery, gift bags, and extra stock should be stored discreetly and easily accessible when needed. Furniture should have storage spaces to ensure the exhibitor is not liable for any injuries and damages that could occur. Also, good quality furniture also protect your brand image by ensuring potential buyers are not agitated by any unsightly clutter in your stand. Lastly, the furniture should provide security for your valuables, like mobile phones and electronics.

Choose the Right Type of Displays

Choosing the right type of display depends on two factors; method of display desired, and whether you want visitors inside or outside your stand. Choose furniture that allows or blocks easy access to your tent. If you are selling from your exhibit booth, block passer-by’s access to your products by arranging your display tables around the outer edge. This allows you to move freely within your stand as you showcase your products. The furniture you choose should facilitate the desired display methods; light or intensive.

If you want to attract potential buyers inside your exhibit booth, consider using movable furniture or one that minimizes on space to host as many visitors as you can. Use furniture that makes visitors comfortable in your booth and creates a quick rapport for them to engage with your team and products. Ensure the height of the furniture keeps your products within the visitor’s reach without forcing them to crouch or stretch.

Lastly, choose the correct number of furniture for your outdoor display. Less is more! That’s our slogan. Having too much furniture will make your stand look cramped and uninviting, relaying a feeling of sensory overload.


Ryan is the Co-founder and CEO at ExpoCart which is the one-stop shop marketplace for products and services for exhibitions and events. Through our intuitive platform, we make it easy for companies to hire and purchase everything they need for their exhibitions in just a few simple clicks for venues across the UK. With hundreds of products available, we aggregate products from a network of the UK’s leading event and exhibition suppliers.

I Was a Tradeshow Marketing Skeptic

I first got into the tradeshow industry as a fluke. I’d spent over 25 years behind a radio microphone, barely aware that such a thing as tradeshows existed. Sure, I went to local home and garden shows now and then, or the state fair where vendors put up cluttered 10’ booths to hawk their goods. But the idea of a large tradeshow industry with thousands of regional and national shows drawing tens of thousands of visitors was foreign to me.

I was between jobs, as they say, when I got hired as VP of Sales and Marketing. “You have good people skills; we can teach you the rest.” It was a small company. When it came to the idea of spending a large amount of money to set up a custom tradeshow exhibit to promote your business, well, I didn’t get it. Could it work? Sure. Would it? I was doubtful.

First Client: Kettle Foods

The original Kettle Foods 20×20

But I forged ahead. My first client happened to be a local company where I had a connection: Kettle Foods. We designed and built a 20×20 custom exhibit that they used for several years at Natural Products Expo West. They gave away a ton of potato chip samples, got great responses and told me that the new exhibit went over extremely well.

Kettle Foods lead to a referral to Nancy’s Yogurt, which lead to several other clients over the next few years. But I was still unsure of how effective the whole idea was. And while I was getting good responses from clients, to me it appeared only anecdotal. When I looked closer, I was seeing exhibitors meeting partners and clients, giving away samples, launching new products and feeling pretty good about it. But were they really getting good results?

Bob’s Red Mill

The original Bob’s Red Mill 20×20

Then came Bob’s Red Mill. When I first met their marketing team, they had a smaller in-line exhibit that was mainly an off-the-shelf modular exhibit with fabric walls. Typical of the time, around 2005. We designed a custom 20×20 exhibit that they liked, and they were off and running. Shortly after that, I saw Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, quoted in a Business Journal article saying that without tradeshow marketing they could not reach certain markets. By regularly exhibiting at tradeshows and meeting new distributors and partners, they were able to expand their markets, which helped grow their company beyond just the northwest part of the country.

When My Eyes Opened

That’s when I finally got it. Tradeshow marketing was helping our clients reach markets they could not otherwise reach. By investing in tradeshow marketing and setting up a nice functional and attractive exhibit that fit their brand at a national show, companies were expanding their markets and selling well beyond their original footprint. Which is why the conversation with clients and potential clients often looks at that angle.

Several clients have also told me that the very fact of having a larger and more effective custom exhibit that fits their brand is bringing them a two-to-four-times increase in their leads at each show. Two to four times! They’re telling me it’s just because of the new exhibit, but I suspect that the act of getting a new exhibit tends to focus the rest of the effort and the marketing team. They instinctively know that investing in a new exhibit property means putting a lot on the line, and the additional effort and focus on making that investment worthwhile adds to the overall success. The new exhibit is key, but the sense of urgency and commitment pushes the team to greater heights.

Why Companies Fail, and Why They Succeed

There are so many moving parts in tradeshow marketing, it’s easy to let a few of the critical pieces fall from your clutch. That’s one of the reasons I wrote two books about tradeshow marketing: to help exhibitors better understand the tasks at hand. I’ve spoken with many exhibitors who have essentially given up. They’ve spent a ton of money and have nothing to show for it. I can see why they’re skeptical of the process and the outcome.

Tradeshow marketing should be a part of an overall integrated marketing plan. They need good products or services, good branding, good customer service and everything else that communicates a positive message to their market. But I’ve seen evidence that many more exhibitors are doing the right things (or enough of the right things while still making mistakes) to make it worthwhile. Done right, a tradeshow is still the best place to reach a focused group of decision makers and influencers from companies that are in a position to make a buying decision. And done right, using digital assets such as videos and photographs after the show can “keep the show alive” long after the hall has closed.

My skepticism is gone because my understanding of the process has increased, and my experience at working with exhibitors has changed me enough to believe that tradeshow marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach markets that you would not otherwise be able to reach.


All That Glitters is Not Gold

Are you one of those people that gets caught up in bright, new shiny objects? It’s easy to do. We’re all easily distracted.

When it comes to tradeshow success, are you guilty of doing the same? Getting caught up in bright and shiny objects instead of focusing on the prize?

Are you overdoing it with technology, for instance? Yes, technology has a place in tradeshows, more today than ever. At this year’s NAB Show, for example, the video walls were overwhelming. But was it worth it? Not up to me to make that judgment. For some, it might have been the best thing they could have done. For others, it might have been overkill.

Technology also shows up in the use of Virtual Reality in tradeshow booths, although I don’t see an overwhelming presence on the show floor. And the few times I’ve personally experienced VR in a booth, it left me underwhelmed. Does that mean you shouldn’t yes VR? No, what it means is that if you decide to invest in the equipment and a VR experience, make it the best you can. Show your stuff. Tell a great story. Knock people out.

What about swag and other giveaways? Yes, giveaways have their time and place, and I have worked with some astute and insightful promotional products companies. But when I get emails from promotional product companies showing off all of their new swag, I can’t help but think “what’s the point?” Many of the new items don’t seem to be a fit for tradeshows or other branded giveaway opportunities. That’s not to say that you should stick with imprinted pens, printed pads and letter openers. Find the middle ground. Make a judgment about what works best and go with that.

And do you really need the newest, brightest, best tradeshow exhibit that money can buy? Probably not. If you decide to do that, great! All of us tradeshow salespeople and fabricators will applaud! But it’s probably not necessary. A good basic tradeshow exhibit that is built for your specific needs – nothing more, nothing less – means you’re saving money for other ancillary marketing efforts, like pre-show mailers, post-show follow-up, social media engagement and more.

The glitter that catches your eyes could be the best thing, the right thing for you. But before you commit the dollars, ask yourself if it’s going to effectively communicate a message, show off your products, reach the right people and bring in results. Once you’ve determined that, you’re on the right track.


Are You Doing These Things at Your Tradeshow?

Tradeshows are crazy, chaotic and have more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine. What, you’re too young to remember Rube Goldberg? Not to worry, I’ll make this as easy as possible.

Basically, there are a lot of moving parts just keeping the machine going. Shipping the exhibit, booking travel, getting the exhibit set up and dismantled, making graphic and other exhibit changes prior to the show. Pre-show marketing. Lead generation. Post-show follow-up. And on and on.

But when you think about it, a tradeshow is a great opportunity to do other things. After all, you have a very specific audience: a focused group of decision makers and influencers that are likely interested in what you’re pitching. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Test things. Do a survey.

How?

Lots of different ways. Let’s start with an easy way: do a survey. What one or two pieces of information would you like to uncover regarding your product? What are the biggest challenges your prospects face regularly?

You can do a survey in a few different ways. First, you can simply create a three or four question survey relating to the situation you’re addressing. Print them up and have one of your staffers simply engage with visitors and ask them to participate. Make it easy by telling them it’ll only take a moment or two. Make it worth their while by offering a bit of swag.

You can also set up a digital survey using an online portal such as Survey Monkey, assuming you have internet access. Make it easily accessible on an iPad or Surface tablet and either let them fill out the form or have one of your staffers just ask the questions and then input the answers.

Demonstrate Something.

Do a hands-on demo. Depending on your product or service, this may be easy, or it may be a challenge. I’ve seen great (and not-so-great) VR experiences at tradeshows. Another tool is a touchscreen video where the visitor chooses from a number of selections to see a video, view a sell sheet, learn how something is made, and so on. While hands-on demos do sound great, in a chaotic tradeshow, visitors often need a little urging and frankly, handholding. But if you can politely engage them, many are willing to give a few moments (ask them if they would like to charge their phone for a few minutes, for example). At this time you can relax and plan on taking a few minutes to have them go through a demo, answer a survey, watch a brief video or something else.

Invite them to do more

Another thing to have them do is ask them if they want to sign up for your newsletter.

Or follow you on social media.

And speaking of social media, that’s another good opportunity. If your booth is large enough, dedicate a small section of it to Instagramming. Invite people to snap a photo of themselves (or you offer to do it). Make it worth their while by offering a product sample, swag, or a chance to win something if they post using your company or show hashtag.

Grab some metrics

Count the visitors. I’m guessing that most companies don’t do this. They may have anecdotal evidence that day one had more visitors then day two or three. But they couldn’t tell you if this year was significantly better or only slightly busier. Or if the show was busier but your booth was not. But if you can dedicate someone to count the visitors as best as possible (have a handful of people trade off – and write it down at the end of each shift), even if the numbers are not 100% accurate, they’re better than just trying to guesstimate.

Tradeshows are a great place to pitch your wares, launch products and talk to buyers face to face. But they’re also a ripe opportunity to do a little market research, make stronger connections and test your suppositions.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, September 23, 2019: Laura Allen

Laura Allen is known as The Pitch Girl, and she teaches clients how to distill the essence of their business into a few concise sentences and confidently present that to potential clients. Laura was a fun interview on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:

Check out Laura at The Pitch Girl.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: the new Lisbeth Salander novel, The Girl Who Lived Twice.

Moving Out of Your Tradeshow Exhibiting Comfort Zone

It’s comforting to stay in your comfort zone. We all know that. No matter what the circumstances. That’s why it’s your comfort zone! If you are more comfortable being a wallflower at social gatherings, it’s difficult to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. If your exercise routine is a daily mile walk, it’s a big step to train for a marathon.

If you’re comfortable in your exhibiting approach to set up a couple of banner stands, and put a branded table throw over the show-provided table, it’s asking a lot to move to a custom exhibit. But many – most – of the clients I work with are doing just that.

For example, a few years ago when I met the great people at Schmidt’s Naturals, they sent me a photo of their current setup, which was a basic back wall and some banner stands. Nothing wrong with it. But they were a growing company and wanted a better look.

Schmidt’s Naturals before doing a custom booth

But doing more meant moving out of their comfort zone. And there are three specific ways in which they were moving out of their comfort zone.

One – the budget goes up. A great-looking custom exhibit will cost more. It’s an investment. That investment comes from a belief that it’s a worthwhile investment, that it will pay off with greater exposure. It’ll pay off with a better-defined brand. It’ll pay off with the ability to take that brand to a wider market and open up markets that were previously difficult to reach.

Two – a custom exhibit won’t ship as airplane luggage or via a UPS package. Nope, odds are that it will fit into a custom-jigged carpeted crate, which ships via a trucking company. And that will take logistic coordination that the company may not have much experience.

Schmidt’s moving up to a 10×20 in 2017

Three – having that custom exhibit usually means hiring a labor management company to setup and dismantle the exhibit. Frankly, the first year with Schmidt’s I joined in and four or five of us set up the 10×20 exhibit on our own. It took between three and four hours. We all learned how to do it, which would have made the next time around a little easier. But they decided to have the pros do it the next time around. So that meant hiring an I&D (installation and dismantle) crew to do the honors. Since we were working with Eagle Management at the time (and still are), we added the Schmidt’s Naturals exhibit to the list.

After a couple of shows, the “new” comfort zone is different from the “old” comfort zone. Many companies decide to take the logistic coordination in-house, others, like Schmidt’s and many of our other clients, have us handle the coordination. No wrong answers – each company does what’s best for their situation and desires.

Schmidt’s Naturals as a 10×40 in 2019 at Expo West

Moving out of a comfort zone is something I’ve seen in almost all of the clients I’ve worked with in the past several years, from Kettle Foods, Nancy’s Yogurt and Bob’s Red Mill 15+ years ago, to Wildbrine, Organixx, Hop Tea, Meduri Farms, Wedderspoon and others in the more recent past. They were all moving up from a smaller, easier to handle exhibit to one that needed more logistic management and was a bigger investment in their marketing. But the end result for all of them was increased presence and positive feedback, and for many of them a significant increase in leads generated.

Every exhibiting company will someday need to come to terms with the prospect of moving through their comfort zone, and having someone to help that process is invaluable.


tradeshow exhibit design search

Checking Your Tradeshow Marketing Results

You can have the best booth, a well-trained staff, good products and more, but what about your tradeshow marketing results? How did you really do at the show?

Here are a handful of results and outcomes you can gauge.

Certainly, the most important two metrics to know and understand are leads generated and business generated from those leads. How many sales did you make?

And not only at the show, but in the months to follow. Many shows allow you to sell direct at the show, or strike deals for later delivery, but almost all shows will generate leads for follow up, which is where the money lies. To accurately track the Return on Investment, you’ll probably want to calculate a new ROI every so often, perhaps every quarter, to see how many leads converted to clients along the way. While you may still be tracking new customers from a tradeshow for as much as a year (or longer), I would think that knowing the ROI a year out is sufficient. And assuming you are going back to the same shows, you can start tracking ROI from that show separate from the previous show.

Beyond leads and sales, there are a number of “softer” items to track which can affect your tradeshow marketing results:

Feedback on various things. How did people react to your new exhibit, for example? Did it wow people, or was the reaction a little more ‘ho-hum’? Or is your older exhibit still impressing people?

Feedback on your products. Depending on what you’re pitching or launching, gauging people’s reactions to those items can be very valuable. If it’s a complicated piece of software, for example, is it easily understood? Does it spur a number of unexpected questions? If you’re test-tasting new flavors of your food, what does the look on people’s faces look like when they’re first biting in? If you’re pitching a new service, is it easily understood?

Feedback on your marketing message and graphics. Do visitors immediately understand what you’re trying to do? Do they ‘get it’?

Booth staff: does your booth staff know how to engage for positive results? Do they know how to approach people, or are they sitting in the back of the booth on their phone or eating? These actions can affect your results in a positive or negative way.

Finally, look around at other exhibitors: how do you compare to them? Are your products similar or do they stand apart? Does your exhibit compare favorably to direct competitors (size, layout, attraction, function) or does it look a little pale in comparison?

There are so many things you can measure to check your tradeshow marketing results. The great thing about tracking so many things, even informally, is that you can more easily compare those results year to year, show to show and determine if tradeshow marketing is working really well, or if you need to focus on some specific things to improve.


Applying the Modern Business Plan to Tradeshow Marketing

The ‘modern business plan’ was hatched on a blog post by Seth Godin. I was a recent enrollee in Godin’s The Marketing Seminar, where at one point we were referred to the post which breaks down the five elements of what he feels are the important parts of a modern business plan: truth, assertions, alternatives, people and money.

It’s also possible to apply that thinking to how you approach tradeshow marketing.

The truth of tradeshow marketing would be the facts and figures of the specific show(s) that you plan to participate in. How many people attend? What percentage of decision-makers and influencers are among the attendees? Who are the competitors/exhibitors?

Assertions might include your thoughts on what you believe you know that is not necessarily supported by data. What new products are you launching that might be similar to new products from competitors? What types of marketing tactics and strategies are those competitors using? This is where you state what you believe to be true, although you might not be able to prove it.

Alternatives: ­This is where you play the “what if” game. What if things go wrong? What is your plan B? What if you get lucky by meeting the exact prospect that you didn’t anticipate? What if your top salesperson is poached by a competitor? Hey, anything can happen. At least opening your mind to some of those possibilities gives you a chance to chew them over.

People: who are your best people and how can you best use them? Where are your weak spots and how can you improve with them? Do you need to acquire people to get your tradeshow department to run like a clock and not like a Rube Goldberg machine?

Finally, money: Budgeting, logistical costs, personnel costs. Return on investment, cost of samples. You know the drill. But are your numbers accurate? And did you run the calculations a year later after the show so that you actually know what your return on investment really is?

What is your Return on Objective? Thanks to the Exhibition Guy Stephan Murtagh!

There are any number of ways of looking at your business or marketing plan, but taking this approach helps to clarify several issues at once. Give it a try!

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 1, 2019: Friendship

There are as many different kinds of friendships as there are friends. Some are business-related, some are school or college-related, others are just friendships you struck up from people you met randomly. This episode of TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee peeks at friendships.

Here’s a link to 50 Inspiring Quotes About Friendship from Inc.com.

And this week’s ONE GOOD THING is the Mueller Report.

Top Ten All-Time Most Viewed TradeshowGuy Blog Posts

I got an email the other day from someone whose newsletter I had just subscribed to, and in the introduction email there was a link to the top 5 most read blog posts on her blog. That’s when an idea light lit up over my head and gave me an idea for a blog post (as a blogger, you’re always looking for ideas, right?).

Next thing you know I was pawing through my Google Analytics account to find out what were the most-viewed posts on this blog. These are the ones that floated to the top, for whatever reason. It’s all organic. I don’t advertise, but I do share links now and then on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. On occasion there might be a link here from Pinterest. Or another blog.

This blog is aging. It’s over ten years old, having been launched in November, 2008. There are almost 1000 posts.

One more note: the analytics breakdown shows the front page as “most-viewed” and a couple of pages (not posts) showed up in the top ten as well, including the Contact Me page and the We Accept Blog Submissions page. But beyond that, here are the top ten blog posts since the beginning of the blog (in traditional countdown order):

Number Ten: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Exhibit RFPs. I created a one-page sheet on what should go into an Exhibit RFP (Request for Proposal), and posted it on Cheatography.com, a site for thousands of cheat sheets. Kind of fun. They regularly sent me emails telling me how many times it was downloaded (500! 1000! 1500!). Not sure how accurate that is, but obviously it’s been seen by a lot of people. From September 2017.

Number Nine: Breaking the Ice: How to Attract Tradeshow Visitors. I referenced a number of techniques taught by tradeshow colleague Andy Saks for this article, which appeared in December 2015.

Number Eight: 23 Pre-Show Marketing Tactics, Promotions and Ideas. A laundry list that was posted in October 2009 when the blog was not even a year old.

Number Seven: How to Build a Tradeshow-Specific Landing Page. Inspired by Portland’s Digimarc, it’s a look at the steps you can use to put together an online site specifically to interact with potential tradeshow booth visitors. From December 2017.

Number Six: Write More Orders at Tradeshows by Replacing Paper With Digital Technology. One of two guest posts on the Top Ten list, this is from Sarah Leung of Handshake. April 2015.

Number Five: Tradeshow Debriefing Questions. Another oldie but goodie, this post from September 2009 guides you through the after-show info-gathering process.

Number Four: Virtual Reality for Tradeshows. You’ve seen them at shows: people wearing VR goggles. Is it worth it? A brief exploration, from June 2016.

Number Three: Exhibit vs. Booth vs. Stand. They’re called different things in different parts of the world, so I took a whack at trying to explain it. Just last summer in July 2018.

Number Two: 10 Skills Every Tradeshow Staffer Should Have. Margaret Coleback of Vantage Advertising LLC dashed of a great list for staffers, which appeared in January 2015.

Aaaaand, at Number ONE: SWOT Analysis for Tradeshows. It still surprises me that this post gets a whopping 3.95% of all of the traffic on the site. At the time I wrote it I had been spending a fair amount of time with a friend who was going through school to get his degree in marketing, and one thing that we discussed in depth was the SWOT Analysis. S=Strengths; W=Weaknesses; O=Opportunities; T=Threats. It’s a great exercise to work through in regards to your tradeshow marketing appearances. Check it out. It’s from February 2015.

Got any favorites?


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